Beautiful Things

What can you do when your heart is heavy with concern for someone you love? I have a colleague who is dealing with the murder of his daughter and her unborn child. An arrest has finally been made, and we are praying that justice will prevail. Another friend is watching her marriage crumble after decades of being together. A neighbor is struggling to negotiate the depths of her mother’s dementia, and a young woman I know has just received the news that the baby she is carrying has Down Syndrome. When someone you care about is hurting, you hurt.

A few days ago when I woke up early to write, this Psalm popped up in the lectionary assignments for this week. I had already been reminded of all four of these situations before I logged into my lectionary library, and here was David’s reminder for all of us about what we can do in the heaviest of situations. Before you read it, think about what is troubling you today, and pray that God will enable you to lay that burden down at the foot of the cross. Then read this as his answer to you:

Psalm 16 (Common English Bible)

Protect me, God, because I take refuge in you.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord.
    Apart from you, I have nothing good.”

God is our only place of refuge when we are in trouble. I remember once being chased by bullies on the way home from school one day. This may be the moment when I happily discovered that I am a decent runner. All I kept thinking was that as soon as I reached my house and the safety of my mother, I would be okay. David is reminding us that we can run home to God whenever we are in trouble.

Now as for the “holy ones” in the land,
    the “magnificent ones” that I was so happy about;
    let their suffering increase because
        they hurried after a different god.
I won’t participate in their blood offerings;
    I won’t let their names cross my lips.

David has realized that following after people who don’t follow after God is a fruitless and useless pursuit. Does that resonate with you today?

You, Lord, are my portion, my cup;
    you control my destiny.
The property lines have fallen beautifully for me;
    yes, I have a lovely home.

This brings me such comfort! To know that all these people I have been praying for are completely being cared for by the Lord, who is the one who controls their destiny, is a blessing beyond measure. It also reminds me that God is God … and we are not.

I will bless the Lord who advises me;
    even at night I am instructed
    in the depths of my mind.
I always put the Lord in front of me;
    I will not stumble because he is on my right side.
That’s why my heart celebrates and my mood is joyous;
    yes, my whole body will rest in safety
10     because you won’t abandon my life to the grave;
    you won’t let your faithful follower see the pit.

My prayer for you today is that you can tap into the kind of relief that David describes when he says that his heart celebrates and his mood is joyous knowing that his whole body will rest in safety. Our life crises are not beyond God’s reach! God is on our right side.

11 You teach me the way of life.
    In your presence is total celebration.
Beautiful things are always in your right hand.

I hope you can take a moment to breathe into that last line: beautiful things are always in God’s right hand. Even in times when you can’t see it, they are there. Lord, give us insight and patience as we wait for our vision to clear. Your presence with us is a total celebration … thanks be to God.

Refuge by David Bevel Jones

Refuge

Waterspouts occur in the Outer Banks when the conditions are just right. Like a land tornado, a waterspout is a fast column of rotating air and water mist that occurs over a body of water and moves quickly and unpredictably. They are forceful enough to cause great damage, and strong enough to pick up objects as they move along.

I have first-hand knowledge of this, unfortunately. A few years ago my husband and I were on a long walk, and were almost two miles away from home when we spotted a waterspout coming rapidly across the sound toward the harbor. To our horror, it turned and aimed directly toward the area where we were walking.

People were out on their decks watching it move closer. We decided to run up a driveway and take shelter in somebody’s carport when a woman began to yell at us to come into her house. We told her we were OK, but she insisted. The urgency in her voice changed our minds, so we ran into her house just as the waterspout changed direction again and came directly over the houses around us.

We sheltered with this kind woman and her mother for about 30 minutes until the danger had passed. When it was safe to walk home, we discovered that the waterspout had caused quite a bit of damage to the houses around us. A large orange patio umbrella had landed on the roof of the house next to the one were we found refuge. A day later, we found out that it had flown from our next door neighbor’s deck across the marina and landed there. A friend across the canal shot a video of the waterspout hitting our neighbor’s house. It sucked the umbrella straight up out of the table, where it swirled in the spout until finally landing almost two miles away. It was like being in a water version of The Wizard of Oz.

The damage to our house was manageable. Our two large trash cans had flown from the front curb OVER THE HOUSE and landed in the canal out back. A pair of heavy Adirondack chairs was picked up off our dock, and also landed in the water. Loose shingles were all over the yard. But thanks to the intervention of a kind stranger, we were safe.

Psalm 16

Keep me safe, my God,
    for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord;
    apart from you I have no good thing.’
I say of the holy people who are in the land,
    ‘They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.’
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
    I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
    or take up their names on my lips.

It doesn’t take a waterspout to make you realize that there are times in your life when you need to take refuge. God is our permanent place of refuge. In him is all the peace, hope and comfort we need. Apart from him, we have no good thing. Running after the gods of pleasure and distraction (as we are inclined to do) is a faulty plan. God sets boundary lines to keep us safe from harm, and we are wise to observe them.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
    you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
    With him at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

For the second day in a row we are given a scripture that boldly states, “I shall not be shaken.” Do you think the Holy Spirit might be trying to tell us something??

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    nor will you let your faithful one see decay.

And here again, for the second day in a row, the scripture assures us that we will not be abandoned to death. We know that Jesus brought about the death of death.

11 You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Where is God calling you to find refuge in him today? What aspect of your life needs to be carefully placed in the safe shelter of his plan right now? What needs to be left behind so that you can continue on the path of life?

You will not be shaken or abandoned. God is with you in every waterspout and storm…and pandemic. Thanks be to God!

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